Frustration with Paying Taxes

We all deal with the struggle of paying our taxes. It’s something that will never end, and sometimes it seems we were born in this world just to pay taxes. Even though when tax refund season is over, we still get excited planning what we will do when we get our money back, but what are we so excited about? It’s money that we’ve already earned. However, how much are you really paying to the Government? Why is it that the more you make the more you have to pay? So, because in society’s eyes you’re doing better in life than others – and making more money – you have to give up more of your money. This doesn’t seem fair. Why isn’t our tax rate flat across the board no matter what you make? I often feel the Government is trying to trick me, and delights in taking everything we have.

If you’re a business owner then you know it is never a joy getting those funds taken out of your bank account. I’ve had the pleasure of owning my own business and paying taxes and somehow I feel that I was paying more than what I really should have been.

I struggle to really understand why so much is taken out of my paycheck every month. I see how much I earn, but then see hundreds of dollars are taken out every time. Well, we are paying for all those streets that are always under construction, we pay city taxes and list goes on. “Just Facts” did a study on how our tax percentage has grown over the last hundred years. Starting in 1929 everyone was only paying 10% and gradually up to 2014, we’re paying 29%. What is going to happen over the next hundred years? By the end of my lifetime are we going to be giving the government over half of our hard earnings?

While doing your taxes if you mess up in the slightest bit you get audited which then leads to huge fines and even worse you could be in criminalized with jail time. Either you are trying to hide information on your taxes or you made a simple mistake. When this happens it’s very hard to find help and to find someone who will get you out of this hole. I was recently reading a blog on a New York Attorney’s website and found it to be very helpful to help guide me in the right direction while doing my taxes.

Just because tax season is over doesn’t mean you’re off the hook until next year. If you’re not sure what to do while filing your taxes follow these three steps:

1. Use government tools to help. TaxSlayer is probably one of the most popular websites, and it is very helpful when filing your taxes. It is also a free website if you fall into a certain tax bracket.
2. Hire an accountant. CPA’s know what they are doing; they also know certain tax breaks that you might not be aware of or special credits.
3. Get a tax attorney. Having someone there who knows the ins and outs of taxes has the potential to save you money over time.

Author Bio:
Sarah Cooley is a young writer who loves to experience life and travel. She enjoys writing about her experiences, and though she may be young, she has experienced much. Her dream is to travel every continent and write about her adventures.

Why is Capitalism So Misunderstood?

Zombie workzoneThere is a strong and growing misunderstanding about Capitalism, both in structure and application.
Capitalism is not a “system” like democracy or a chemical reaction. It is not something that anyone designed in particular. And it is not something that can be consciously improved or retrograded for that purpose .

Capitalism is – or should be – the result of free markets, including the insights, work, gambles, and composite luck of millions of people all over the planet.

You want to improve it?
You might just as well try to “improve” the price of Walmart shares or of a pound of potatoes.

Capitalism is not a system that you can take or leave, or take some parts of and leave the others untouched, thereby making it more suited to your needs. It is not created, nor did it evolve.
Capitalism is just what you get when you respect the rules of civilization.

Don’t kill. Don’t steal. Don’t bear false witness. Nothing else much matters, so I haven’t taken the trouble to think about them too much, because Jesus condensed these three rules into two big ones when he gave his Sermon on the Mount: “Love God. Love and respect thy neighbor.” Even though I’m not much of a Jesus promotor, I think he was pretty spot on with this.

The Jewish scholar Hillel the Elder later put it in terms a child could understand: If you would not want someone to do it to you, then don’t do it to someone else. This is obviously transferable into any action or thought you can come up with.
All the rest is detail. You can’t love thy neighbor and steal his stuff. If you follow that rule, capitalism is what you’ve got. There is no way to improve it, in spite of all the claims of those who plan to rob you blind. Those are the zombie parts of the human race, always ready to find wrong in the details, so they set out to correct what otherwise comes natural.

I can bring up a thousand examples of this behavior, but prefer to show you our future as it develops right in front of our eyes.
My example here is Uber, the transportation sharing online company, but could easily be Bitcoin, AirBnB, Roomorama or any online development that innovates the sharing economy as a natural progression of capitalism at work.

So along come some clever people with a good idea – a “ride-sharing” app called Uber.
You find a ride easily. Rider and driver are tracked by Uber’s system to provide a quality and reliability trail on both sides.
And it costs a fraction of a regular cab ride.
If customers don’t like the service, they don’t use it.

Simple, right?
Fair? Honest?
Capitalism doesn’t know or care about that. That’s up to buyers and sellers.

Wait! Can we make this system better? Improve on it?
Yes, say the cronies.

Shut it down!

That’s what vote seeking idiots threaten with across the globe. The latest news from Paris says it is illegal to use the Uber app in the City of Lights. Funny that they chose the month of August to impose this, considering that the city is empty in that month, when everyone leaves for the coast. Furthermore….try to enforce this and you’ll have a revolution on your hands.
But in New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio wants to limit the number of new drivers Uber can take on. What a way to boost employment!

And on the campaign trail, Hillary Clinton, champion of zombies and cronies everywhere, is taking aim at the “sharing economy” – in which innovations such as Uber and Airbnb allow folks to share and redistribute excess capacity without any top-down control. She promises to take a “hard look” at it if elected president. The city of Fernandina Beach wants to come down hard on illegal short term vacation rentals. It will take a whole new enforcement agency with a price tag and in the end the city will admit defeat, because online sharing has taken off and will maximize capacity use.

But for now love thy neighbor – as long as he gives you a campaign contribution.

Making your Workplace Energy Efficient

Making your Workplace Energy Efficient

2005 Magnum MMG155

Interestingly enough, this is one issue that is often overlooked by many investors and top level managers when they go about setting up the workplace. A couple of PCs left running throughout the night may seem like a good idea, but then when the power bill piles up it delivers a punch. Financially, this can cripple you enough, but what about its more subtle effects? We all know the studies which show some power appliances can adversely affect the environment. Collectively they could be the air conditioners running in six floored building, or maybe the heat generated by a data center mainframe. The bottom line: a workplace utilizing energy more efficiently can really save a lot.

Using Energy Efficient Appliances
Appliances that do not shave off much power or consume too much current: these are the machines you should be looking at when you get to decide the kind of equipment your office space is to possess. Many managers think of the purchase costs that will pile in with appliances that consume less and ultimately cost more. This is where the long terms costs come in and often managers choose to bear the short term saving on purchase, thinking that they will replace the equipment later. Fans, lights, computer wires and chargers all fall within the bracket of equipment which should always be purchased with their consumption rate in mind. The thought of replacing the item later never truly works out.

Cutting use of the space
Larger offices pile up larger bills: this is one fact that won’t be changing anytime soon. In order to overcome the expense incurred by installing power for larger offices many employers prefer now using a larger workforce with smaller space. The trend of increasing land prices factors in this, but more importantly, managers see the expenses involved with keeping larger offices and all the equipment that go with them. Extra rooms means extra lights and extra air conditioners. Eliminate that and you possibly have a large number taken off your power consumption… the figures do add up.

Many employers are opting for workers who can telecommute or work from their own homes. Whilst some management practices question the efficacy of such an approach, it cannot be denied that it does at least mean lesser resource consumption at the workplace.

Vigorous maintenance
Installing the appliances and getting your offices running is just the beginning. Maintenance is important, that may seem like common sense, but you would be surprised to see how many complaints come in from offices with regards to worn out ACs, short circuiting switches, computer power supplies that burn out etc. Overheating, improper cleaning and spills come next in the list for most requests of repairs. All of these problems point at one common factor: neglect.

energy-star-logo-vectorScreens left running at their highest brightness setting for extended hours consume power quickly and heat the plugs more. Similarly, leaving the AC on and running in an unused room overheats the AC and simply consumes power for no apparent reason. Proper maintenance of course means more than simply cleaning all the equipment.

• Periodic wire checks
• Battery life for laptops
• Luminosity checks
• Checking for leaks within ACs
• Overheating in power supplies
• Brightness control in screens

All fall within the kind of checks that should be administered regularly in order to keep power consumption efficient. In truth, a lot of these checks and balances not only minimize power costs but lead to a healthier working environment too and as the technological trend surges upwards in the midst of this decade, that is the kind of environment which every employer wants.

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Taking Us to the Crossroad

An Avalanche in the Making

An Avalanche in the Making

Life is full of crossroads. In work, education, friendships, religion, love, crossroads are the landmarks that make us move forward or regress. Some of us ‘create’ these crossroads through conscious actions and choices, but many, too many in my opinion, depend on others to take them to a crossroad.

When my good friend Ronnie Stoots in his typical entertaining way shared the story about a Southern preacher complaining about one group of parishioners wanting him to pray them into heaven, while yet others blamed him for experiencing hardships. We had a good laugh when the preacher’s enlightened yet practical conclusion to the dilemma was: I’m taking them to the crossroads and whomever gets to them first may have ’em.

When I read Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman’s statement yesterday in the New York Times that “debt doesn’t matter to a Nation” I had to think about Ronnie’s preacher and smiled, albeit a very bitter sweet smile. If one of the Nation’s “leading” economists, one who has the eager ear of the White House and government, makes a statement like that and gets away with it, I think we are all standing on the crossroad of Poverty and prosperity, ready to be picked up by a vehicle with blinded windows, to be taken to destination anywhere.

Krugman, in his wisdom of guided economies, declares that debt on a micro level as in families and individuals, is bad and leads to poverty, but on a macro level like overall national debt, it doesn’t matter, because as he explains: “We owe it to ourselves.” Krugman must live in a different universe, one that turns national interests into a global collective interest where any debt is just money we owe to ourselves, and does not directly make the economy poorer.

I can not even begin to explain why idiots like him and Dick Cheney, who once declared that “deficits don’t matter either” and then lead us to a war in Iraq, get airtime from the incompetence of most of the media. But if the Western World, and its summit representative America, is going to war to defend a lifestyle that was build on the simple premise that hard work gives a decent life, the world current debt level of $200 trillion (McKinsey Report), $57 trillion of which was created in the aftermath of 2007/8, need only a spark of doubt about the underlying collateral value, to explode into something so much more devastating than the experience of the greater recession in 2008.

Really? $300 million for this?

Really? $300 million for this?

Not in 1.9 million years!

When a substandard Gauguin painting sells for $300 million at one auction and the rust bucket remains of a 1949 Talbot automobile sells for several millions at another auction, we may be getting close to the break line of a currency crisis.

And when people like Krugman think they can elevate economics to a science rather than an observation of human inconsequence in constantly changing blue prints, I get nervous. Especially when they get the platform to express their nonsense as truth to set your life’s compass by.

Oh yes I’m seeing the crossroad approaching in terrifying speed: poverty or prosperity. It may be 2016 election year, or it may not. With Paul Krugman as one of those at the steering wheel however, there is little doubt where we’re heading. He already sold us: lock, stock and barrel. He knows where his exit/extraction point is: at the crossroad directing traffic.

The Huge Generational Disconnect and Starting Over at 60

Looking at the numbers of the future

Looking at the numbers of the future

I just watched 25 minutes of a presentation from Alex Daley, chief technology officer at Casey Research, about the future of IT and how on all levels all over the world IT movements are rapidly replacing old ways and means. Most of America still may think that the NFL or the NBA have growing entertainment value, but compared to the massive growth of online games, they’re just peanuts.  Watching this video as a senior who has been in online since the world wide web made its global entrance in the early 1990s, I have to admit that I’m running a bit behind a curve that seems to be speeding forward at dazzling speed.

But I can still see the implications and the disconnect…AND….the danger to keep looking at the world from an old school economic slant.

There is a world out there where the 2008/9 recession never reached, because revenues kept growing and growing to such extent that monetary crisis, inflation, deflation, national debt, unfunded liabilities, and the fear that we will outlive our means to sustain a lifestyle, have become irrelevant. And looking at how the younger generations have embraced and opened up to online entertainment technologies, even privacy protection has become circumspect, as in “you must have something to hide”.

Mostly however I see a huge generational disconnect between the economies of the past and the future, with the unfortunate side effect that our economic society of the past was anchored in trust, respect and loyalty, attributes which have no real meaning in the economy of tomorrow, because of utter disconnect.

As a philosophical economist ( I gladly leave the statistical ‘science’ part to the number crunchers) I cannot help but wonder how our boomer generation is going to finance current unfunded liabilities in the $100 trillion plus range (social security, medicare, medicaid), when tomorrow’s economic output can move anywhere at anytime without a moral consideration for geographic or ideological belonging.

Hindsight is 20/20

With luck and the right guidance, you may be the smart one who started a wealth-building plan in your 20s or 30s.  If not, you may find yourself in your 50s or 60s without a comfortable and secured nest egg in which case you join at least 40% of the US population who have not saved a penny for retirement.
So now the burning question becomes: “Is it possible to make up for lost time?”

I know quite a few people who are in their 60s and have no savings, no significant assets, and bad credit due to having had to file for bankruptcy while on top of all of that, everything is suddenly starting to go wrong with body and health, or so it seems. (the mind plays nasty games with your body, when a form of disconnect or desperation shows itself!)

So you may ask yourself: Is it even possible to save myself at this point?

The answer is yes. Not even a qualified yes – a very definitive yes!
You may at times be feeling run-down and beaten-up, (we cannot party like it’s 1999 anymore!), but your life at 60 is far from over.
Feeling depressed, overweight and uncoordinated? Time to work on good health.
Build physical stamina and personal productivity. It really is just a matter of intelligence and persistence.

And before I get to addressing your financial needs, let me give you a few examples of what some well-known people have been able to do in their 60s (or thereabouts):

Chaleo Yoovidhya, uneducated other than by life itself, invented Red Bull energy drink and started marketing it globally in the mid 1980s at age 62, making him a billionaire within 10 years.

Winston Churchill, who suffered from clinical depression his entire life became Prime Minister at the age of 65

Harland Sanders, better known as Colonel Sanders, was 65 when he started Kentucky Fried Chicken. As demand for his tasty chicken grew, Sanders opened a restaurant. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Laura Ingalls Wilder was 65 when she began writing her beloved Little House on the Prairie series. She went on to pen eight total books in the series – in addition to being a journalist.

• In 1954, at the age of 52, Ray Kroc opened a hamburger stand – when most people his age were retiring. Kroc revolutionized the fast-food business when this hamburger stand eventually became McDonald’s.

• Car icon and businessman Henry Ford was 60 years old when he created the first car assembly line.

• At 70 years old, Golda Meir became the fourth prime minister of Israel – and the first woman to hold the post.

• In 2004, at the age of 82, Robert Galvin, retired longtime CEO of Motorola, started Galvin Electricity Initiative, a nonprofit dedicated to transforming and improving the nation’s power grid to 21st-century standards.

Grandma Moses (Anna Mary Robertson Moses) came to public attention in 1940, at the age of 80. She began painting in her seventies after abandoning a career in embroidery because of arthritis. She lived to be 101 and in the last year of her life painted twenty-five pictures. Her work “Sugaring Off”, became her highest selling work at $1.2 million. Quote: “Life is what we make it, always has been, always will be”

Harry Bernstein. At the age of 96, Harry Bernstein published his best-seller memoir “The Invisible Wall”. Quote: “If I had not lived until I was 90, I would not have been able to write this book,God knows what other potentials lurk in other people,if we could only keep them alive well into their 90.”

Nola Hills became a short-lived Guinness World Record holder as the world’s oldest college graduate at age 95 to be beaten out of that record in 2012 by 98 year old Twila Boston who graduated with a bachelor degree in American Studies. Shortly after Dr Allan Stewart, a 97-year-old retired Australian dentist, received his masters degree in clinical science from Southern Cross University – setting the newest world record for Oldest graduate. Loved Nola Hills quote: “I plan to seek employment on a cruise ship going around the world as a storyteller”.

There are thousands of examples more, but these suffice in telling the idea. As of 2009, the latest year for which information is available, persons reaching age 65 had an average life expectancy of an additional 18.7 years (20 years for females and 17.3 years for males). This means you have many more years to live well and thrive!

Simone De Beauvoir wrote the following in “The Coming of Age”

“It is old age rather than death that is to be contrasted with life. Old age is a parody of life, whereas death transforms life into a destiny. In a way, death preserves life by giving it the absolute dimension–“As unto himself eternity changes him at last”. Death does away with time.
There is only one solution if old age is not to be an absurd parody of our former life,and that is to go on pursuing ends that give our existence meaning – Devotion to individuals, to groups or to causes,social, political, intellectual or creative work – One’s life has value so long as one attributes value to the life of others, by means of love,friendship,indignation,compassion.”

And I have always been partial to George Burns’ ageless observation: “Retirement at sixty-five is ridiculous. When I was sixty-five I still had pimples.”

So What to Do About Your Financial Future?

The first thing I’d recommend strongly is to put some of the doom-and-gloom material that is out there in perspective.
Yes, debt burdens our world economy. And yes, that debt will be paid one way or another. So stop worrying about it.

The second thing I’d like you to do is to believe what I’m about to tell you: It is perfectly possible – even likely – to eliminate debt and acquire wealth within seven years IF you are willing to do the right things.

That seven-year term has always been a personal projection for me, especially when I looked in retrospect. It comes from what I’ve done many times over in my own life and what I’ve been able to help other people do many times over.

When you are young, seven years seems like an eternity. But at 60, you now know that it will pass faster than the 2,555 days it is supposed to represent. But if you multiply 2,555 days by 4 hours that you sleep less than others who “need” 12 hours of sleep including laying on the couch to watch TV, you just gained 426 days to be effective and involved in your health and financial well-being.
That’s why it’s so important for you to take this advice seriously and put it to work immediately. No procrastination permitted.
If you wait even a week to get started, you will find it easy to push it off another week and then a month, and before you know it, those seven years will have passed, and you will be in the same bind you are in now.

The third thing you must do is take responsibility for your future finances and well-being. This is not something you can simply agree to. You must make a serious review of what you’ve done in the past. And you must make a serious personal commitment to change.

The acquisition of additional income

Once your body is healthy and your mind is right (including your commitment to persist in this plan), you are ready for the first life-improving change. And that is the acquisition of additional income.

My argument is that you can’t get wealthy by investing alone. You must observe and if necessary curtail your spending, manage your money and allocate your investments wisely. Remember that you are trying to maintain a lifestyle without running out of money, which means you must also create extra income for yourself and your spouse. Whether that entails a job, a service, or development of specific skills (writing, photography, translation service, baby sitting, handi-work, seamstress, book keeping, concierge services, handicap transportation, shopping trips etc. etc.)
Bringing in extra income is the single most important way you can get rid of debt and become wealthy within seven years. It is the surest way you can get out of the financial pickle you are in and enjoy a comfortable, worry-free retirement.

Being 60-plus years old is not a problem. It’s an opportunity. You are older now, and that means you should be wiser. You should be able to use that wisdom to make good choices.

Book Yourself and Start Earning Money Today

Book Yourself and Start Earning Money TodayI have a very resourceful relative who has been out of steady work for a bit of time. Well, she decided to make money by booking herself and Boy, did it pay off! Here is her simple plan if you want to try and make some dependable cash income for yourself.

She took out an advertisement in a local pet friendly magazine that went something like this:

Personal Assistant, she listed her name, two contact numbers and an email address.

Next, she listed all of the things she is good at by category.
Household: Laundry, packing, unpacking, drop off or pick-up services, party preparations, plant watering, light cleaning, light food preparation and so on.
Pet Related: Dog walking, feeding, brushing, visiting, administering medications and the like.
Do It Yourself: Curtain rod and picture hanging, organizing closets, cleaning the garage, light gardening, and rearranging furniture.
Seamstress: Hemming, mending, alterations if you have lost weight and can no longer wear your favorite clothing.
Computers: Introduction to, email, surfing the web, data entry, basic filing.

Near the end of the ad she put in big bold letters, WHAT CAN I DO FOR YOU?

She closed with the basic detailed information regarding her fees and expectations, “12.00 per hour, not a health care provider nor strictly a cleaning service.”

She is booked six days a week for the next ten weeks and is thrilled with the variety of work she is doing. She is working for herself, setting her own hours, and extremely happy.

If someone calls for something she cannot do, she will admit that right up front, also she does not take risks. Anything dangerous or hazardous she wants no part of, but she has turned out to be quite the entrepreneur.

So, the next time you find yourself whining because you cannot find a job, simply make one for yourself based on your own set of skills. As you can see in this example, when you think about it, you have plenty of talent that others will pay you for. Start today and make money by booking yourself.

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Are There Ways out of Student Loan Hell?


Taking care of your offspring

I may have given the impression in yesterday’s story closing that there are real ways out of the catch 22 when it comes to spending retirement savings on off spring college tuitions, but in truth there are no escapes if you did not plan the eventuality long in advance, like starting to put a college fund together the day your children are born. Short of that there is only advice about steps you can take to avoid having to use savings for retirement for college education and while everyone’s family and finances differ, you may consider taking some or all of the following eight steps.

1. Be Smart and Shop Around

It all starts with shopping and pricing smart. In conjunction with The College Board, most college websites include a net price calculator. Parents and students can use them to compare approximate costs of attendance, estimated grant and gift aid, and the net cost families should expect to pay out of pocket or via loans. These calculators require students to enter financial details about themselves and their parents to best predict costs, and they also factor in non-tuition expenses. USNews put an extensive list of net price calculators together.

Be real, you wouldn’t buy a vacation trip without knowing the cost, so why commit to paying for a specific college without seeing the real price tag? In real life, some parents can afford the cost of prestigious universities, and some cannot. While non-need-based financial aid is sometimes available for particularly gifted students or athletes, most children and their parents shouldn’t rely on that. Most of the above net price calculators open their communication with the advice to get the previous year’s tax return, which makes it abundantly clear that education is still a prosperity game here in the US. In today’s world it seems to be the required admission level to the middle class. It’s hard to deny your off spring anything this important, but…if you can’t pay for your child’s top-choice school or if you can only afford to pay in part, tell him or her. Your love and support as a mother or father is far more important than your spot on the economic ladder. Plus, being upfront about what you can and can’t afford will teach your children to do the same—an invaluable lesson. Shop around and price out alternatives. Graduates of prestigious universities may often earn more in this “class-less society”, but nowhere on any diploma is there an asterisk noting, “you first spent two years at a junior college getting excellent grades before you got accepted.”

2. Select Majors Carefully

Of course if you can afford to indulge your kid’s socio-intellectual whims and have no problem paying for an education that results in a job as bartender, great! If not, you should take stock of realistic post-college job options as well as your kid’s aptitudes, skills, and desires. A bit of ability testing in advance of majors’ selections, would be money well spend.

The Center for College Affordability and Productivity (CCAP) published a fascinating report titled Why Are College Graduates Underemployed?”,  in which it analyzed how students with different majors fare economically. Though this of course isn’t the whole story, this sort of information is nevertheless very important for students to consider when choosing a major. And yes, it’s important to encourage your kids to do what they love to do. If they have the passion that it takes, they’ll be good at it and make a good living. After all life is a one time opportunity much bigger than the sum of its components. And a college degree is merely a component.

3. Avoid the Country Club College

The CCAP study highlights what college life is for many: a really expensive party. For a large portion of the college-going population, attendance is only partly motivated by human capital investment criteria, namely a desire to ultimately obtain a good job and a ticket to a relatively affluent middle class (or better) life. Those students go to college also to have fun—to meet new friends, to use top-of-the-line exercise machines to relax, to party, to get drunk, and have sex. The “country-clubization” of higher education … is important to many, particularly for the relatively affluent families who can afford to let their kids indulge in such activities. Some schools explicitly cater to students for whom this social/consumption dimension is very important.

Those who came of age in the ‘60s and ‘70s saw college as a fun rite of passage. They were fortunate to graduate into a growing economy where jobs were plentiful. A lot has changed since then. In 1960 almost 60% of the population had less than a high school diploma; another 33 plus percent had high school diplomas and only a little over 8% of the population had a bachelor’s degree or higher. Well that market has become vastly more competitive as is shown in this figure.


So ask yourself the question: Is a four- to six-year party with no job at the end worth the price? Will the college experience described above prepare your kids to be financially and emotionally independent? Not likely. Of course, that doesn’t mean college shouldn’t be fun. However, setting ambitious expectations for your child’s academic performance, capping the number of semesters you’ll pay for, and requiring your children to cover at least part of the tuition—whether from summer jobs or part-time work during the school year—can make college a good investment for everyone. Your kids will still have fun… trust me.

 4. Every child should be a stakeholder in its own education

Even if you can cover 100% of your children’s college expenses without flinching, students are more responsible when they’re spending their own money. It’s basic human nature. There are countless ways to make your children financial stakeholders: requiring them to cover a set dollar amount each semester; creating financial incentives for good grades and timely graduation; or only paying for tuition, room, and board, but not beer, spring break, or a car. Pick your flavor.

5. Sit down and Budget together

Oh I’ve listened to many a parent’s horror story about giving their kids a credit card without a daily expense monitor and the pictures painted were devastating. So here is a piece of advice. Write a college budget with your children, no matter whose money you’re spending. Learning to budget for food, clothes, gas, and fun is essential to adulthood. Help them prepare and monitor monthly and annual budgets and insist on regular updates. Be explicit from the outset that there are strings attached to your money, including sticking to a transparent budget. Don’t fuss over every pizza purchase (or your children will quickly learn about creative accounting), but do review ways to save on larger purchases and suggest places to cut if they routinely cut it close each month. If you don’t teach your children to budget during college, expect them to be on your household budget long after graduation.

6. Don’t you Dare touch your IRA/401(k)

While it is relatively easy to tap into IRAs, 401(k)s, and the like, just don’t do it. They’re safe havens for non-taxable compounding, which is how retirement money grows fast. The deal you want to cut with your children is: you will take care of your retirement so they won’t have to support you in old age. Keep your end of the bargain.

7. Start Preparing Early

529 plans, which are operated by the states and some educational institutions, provide a tax-advantaged way to start saving early. Consider replacing an over-abundance of toys received during birthdays, special holidays and so on to be dropped for contributions to college funds. Of course don’t deny a toddler a toy tool to learn, but don’t have a room full of toys either. I’m in the phase of being ‘papa’ to a growing number of grandchildren and sometimes I just have to shake my head when I see the number of toys received on a birthday; we’re talking a combined value of many hundreds of dollars per event. Of course I’m standing lonely in the dessert with my opinion but most of the money grandchildren receive from their grandparents and even uncles and aunts should go into a college fund. It’s an easy way to introduce kids to saving and helps put an early dent in college expenses.

8. Don’t fret if you just can’t pay

If you simply cannot fund a college education and retirement, don’t ignore the facts. Talk to your children and show them the numbers. It’s a teaching opportunity parents shouldn’t overlook. Most kids get it. Realign their expectations early, and most will take on some or all of the responsibility for college costs without complaint. Once the plain facts are clear, you can build a plan together. Maybe a part-time job, a less expensive school, and/or community college is in order.

There are ways to fund a college degree without drowning in student loans. Here is a list of Best Values , put together by the Center for College Affordability. The only warning I see is that the top 5 value schools are all military related, which seems to be a sign of the growing empire (but that’s another story for another day).

Do not give up your retirement savings to send your children to college.

Any child who would ask or allow you to do that has a distorted sense of life’s values. Compromise where you can, but there comes a time when you must cut the financial cord so you both can survive. My parents summed it up this way: “It’s the job of parents to help their children learn to survive and grow on their own.”

They installed in us the understanding that every generation needs to carry its own load. I grew up in the 50s and 60s; in my home country college was mostly paid for by public funds with a small contribution from the parents. I fear for our kids and grand kids when they come face to face with the reality of the enormous unfunded liabilities that have been created since. The first scenes of this drama are already unfolding as the Class of 2014 enters the labor market. But that is for tomorrow when I will tell you about ‘the Commencement Speech Nobody Wants to Hear’.

A Different Take on the Cost of Education

The Burden of ParenthoodThis three part story on student debts versus retirement savings has been sitting in my to publish folder for several weeks now, as I did not want to interfere with the giddy happiness that spreads around communities and proud parents because of graduations. As parents listen to mostly dull or overzealous high-school commencement speakers nationwide, many may or at least should wonder if paying for college is the best way to equip a child for the future along with an honest take on what they will have to give up to do it versus the realities of a degree.

To give you a better perspective of the realities of an education degree, here are some numbers to chew on.

With only a high-school education, the current Synthetic Work-Life Earnings (SWE) estimate lies around $1.37 million or $34,250 a year or about $660 per week allowing them to live paycheck to paycheck. The holder of a bachelor’s degree can expect to earn about $2.42 million over a 40-year working life, according to Synthetic SWE estimates based on US Census Bureau data. Tack on a master’s degree and it jumps to $2.83 million… or a professional degree and it “skyrockets” to $4.16 million or $104,000 per year, exactly $2,000 per week.
Statistics like these aren’t new; however, how to pay for those degrees in this day and age is causing parents increasing anxiety. After all real salaries have decreased since the 1970s. And now it turns out that retirement savings is often the first casualty of college tuitions, and over time that will prove to be a huge mistake.
No parent should pay for college at the expense of his or her own retirement. Once upon a time it may have been a fair bet on the future, expecting children to take care of parents in their retirement years, but those days are long gone. What’s even worse is that parents are leaving their kids with an alarming federal debt and huge unfunded liabilities.

Student Debt Creates Financial Prison for the Whole Family

Since 2010 the total outstanding student debt in the US has outpaced credit card debt, mortgages and auto loans. According to data published by the New York Fed, student loan balances totaled $1.08 trillion in Q4 2013, a $114 billion increase for that year. 11% of that debt is at least 90 days overdue, and sad to say, the burden doesn’t just fall on students.
Last month Yahoo Finance shared the cautionary tale of Peter and Valerie Shippen, a schoolteacher and an electrical engineer who backed into $500,000 in student debt for their offspring of four. At first the Shippen’s agreed to pay for just one year of college for each of their three oldest children, who were all attending private colleges at the same time. They assumed financial aid would cover the rest and had no money saved, because they thought they could pay for the year out of their current earnings.
But then harsh reality showed up. As a middle-class family, the Shippen’s income turned out to be too high for financial aid. The fact that they had three children in college at the same time and a fourth to follow made no difference to the system.
So, like many others the Shippen’s borrowed from the federal direct loan program, taking out a total of $500,000 in Parent PLUS loans. Easy money. Each of their children agreed to pay back 75% of the loan, but only two of them followed through. Today, the Shippens sit on a $150,000 debt—which translates to payments of $1,700 per month over 25 years.
In Mrs. Shippens’ own words, “It has just killed us. … We have no retirement savings.”

What Were Their Most Obvious Mistakes?

The Shippen’s made a couple of clear-cut mistakes: assuming at the time that their earnings would cover their children’s college costs; and bankrolling private colleges when their children likely had lower-cost options at public universities. It’s a sign of the “deserving attitude society” many of us have fallen for.

But even if you did everything right, getting kids through college is a colossal hurdle for middle-class parents these days, even for those who plan well in advance.

In addition, the parent’s burden these days doesn’t necessarily stop at graduation. 85% of American parents either expect their adult children to move back in with them after graduation or to help their children pay for a place of their own. I hear it all the time. Good friends recently had to almost physically remove a son in his late thirties from their home, but only after helping him find and financially support a place.
A far cry from the historically preferred option to prepare your kids for financial independence and then kicking them out the door!

Cost of College Went Up 27% over Five Years

The rising cost of college maybe the biggest part of the problem but it’s not the only reason. The cost of attending a public four-year college rose 27% above inflation over the last five years. For private universities, the cost is up 13% and for community colleges, 24%.
In a free market system, the cure for high prices is unaffordable high prices. The explanation is kind of simple as prices can only rise so far, before the market will no longer pay them. There is initially an elasticity however, which leads to a budgeting balancing act. For example when the price of gasoline goes up, people will first “steal” money from other household budgets, be it leisure, vacation, luxury food, health and fitness. But as prices keep increasing in the next stage they will sacrifice the gas guzzling SUV for a car with better gas mileage and ultimately, but only as a last resort, they will buy a scooter, moped or bicycle to replace the use of the car to fit the gas budget. Funny enough I saw that phenomenon clearly when living in the Caribbean. With price fluctuations many locals started budgeting one gas tank per week. But when that lead to a decrease in gasoline demand, the gallon price went down quickly. Only the free market system can do that!

But when a government introduces long periods of Easy money/credit, the free market picture changes considerably. Since the university system is not part of a free educational market, by making student loans easily available, the government has enabled colleges to raise their costs to astronomical levels. Solution: Take student loans out of the picture and college costs will come down radically. And while doing it, stop treating demagogues like Paul Krugman as economic superstars with gigantic salaries just to write a curriculum on income inequality.

Having Children at an older age is Another Threat to Retirement

In addition to rising tuition costs, today’s parents are writing those checks when they should be making the final wealth-building push before retirement. In 2011, the median age at which an American woman had her first child was just under 26, up from age 22 in 1970. In addition, one in five women now have their first child after age 35, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Waiting to have children has created a retirement Catch-22. On the one hand, postponing childbirth generally correlates with career building and higher earnings, but it also leaves parents with no time to finish saving for retirement after the kids have flown the coop.
If you have your last child at age 35, you’ll be 53 when your baby graduates from high school and at least 57 when he graduates from college. That doesn’t leave many kid-cost-free years to maximize your nest egg. So, unless you’re ultra-wealthy or have saved a spare $100,000 or so per kid, something has to give.

Tomorrow Part 2 will discuss Several Ways out of a Retirement Catch-22

Edward Jones to Host Open House

Edward Jones to Host Open HouseBrian Henning, a local financial advisor for the financial services firm Edward Jones, invites the public to attend an open house from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Thursday, May 29, 2014 at 95766 Amelia Concourse (just before North Hampton).

“We are happy to be part of the Fernandina Beach/Yulee community and would like to express our appreciation for the confidence and support we receive year-round,” Henning said.

Refreshments will be served.

Henning may be reached at (904) 261-9392.

Edward Jones provides financial services for individual investors in the United States and, through its affiliate, in Canada. Every aspect of the firm’s business, from the types of investment options offered to the location of branch offices, is designed to cater to individual investors in the communities in which they live and work. The firm’s 10,000-plus financial advisors work directly with nearly 7 million clients to understand their personal goals, from college savings to retirement, and create long-term investment strategies that emphasize a well-balanced portfolio and a buy-and-hold strategy. Edward Jones embraces the importance of building long-term, face-to-face relationships with clients, helping them to understand and make sense of the investment options available today.

Edward Jones is headquartered in St. Louis. The Edward Jones interactive Web site is located at, and its recruiting Web site is

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Retirement? Will You Outlive Your Money?

Gasoline 20ctsIn recent years I have seen more and more commercials promote the conscious fear for retirement (when the checks stop coming in…), as even the most optimistic baby boomers are starting to get nervous, with the prospect that their money will run out before they do. Social Security, 401Ks, annuities,stocks and bonds, if we were to believe the financial advisors, you need to set every penny aside to secure your “golden years”, as if there was no inflation, no interest paid for money, no deflation or a currency crisis in the making and that real state will never loose its value. Historically retirement was never a financially secure option, so why would it be now? I see the advertisements, TV commercials and billboards plastered with happy seniors, walking hand in hand down a tropical beach smiling at each other. Life is good! Well, of course there are some that lucked out and kept their health and their money and ended up financially secure enough to enjoy the fruits of a life of hard work. But for every handful of the lucky ones, there are thousands that wonder where all the promises went. Yesterday in the super market I was drawn into a conversation about pricing by what must have been an 85 year old gentleman who wondered what happened to the cost of groceries. Shaking his grey manes as he walked away he said:”I remember the days when a pound of Cube Steak cost 43cents!” Honestly I don’t know how most people will go into retirement and survive. But I know that there are always options.

Having operated a B&B for the past 2-1/2 years I have come in contact with many guests on the edge of retirement, wondering if and how they can afford the remainder of their lives in preferred financial stability. During many a conversation, I have been trying to convey the message that building an internet based business can not only provide them with income, but also with the means to diversify. To be sure, I’m not talking about your regular guy in the street, who can hardly afford a $200 a night vacation on the beach; I’m talking about people who during their active years built up a practical knowledge base or have committed a lifetime to learning and applying hobbies and other skills, that can be translated into a sellable proposition.

All that is needed is to create a product or service that appeals to a group of people willing to learn from your mistakes and ultimate successes. Whether a series of e-books, instructional videos or even podcasts; whether a newsletter or a seasonal webinar or seminar, if your product or service makes sense, there will be a subscriber base willing to pay for your knowledge and your research.
And the beauty of internet sales is, they become financially attractive already in the smaller numbers. Suppose your videos on “Learning to Play the Ukelele” attracts initially 300 subscribers willing to pay $19.95 a month to learn to play from a beginner to intermediate to advanced (a 3 year process), you would earn a cool $215,460 over those 3 years. Now if during the course of time you would expand your services and products with e-books, personal instruction lessons, a book on the history and manufacturing of Ukeleles, best strings, picks etc. etc., you may turn a nice $100K per year and that’s assuming that your subscriber base does not grow.

You’ve been a PR or Human Resources Manager all your life? Believe me there is a group of takers out there that will pay for your experience in a well published booklet.

One of our sons is on a managerial fast track in a solid retail company. Often when we drive to get supplies for the B&B we talk about his work and him leading his team, strength and weakness propositions etc. and I advise him based on my 40 somewhat years in corporate management and people skills. Obviously I don’t charge him, but when on one trip he kind of hinted that my reimbursement for all the advise would be him taking care of us (his mom and me) when we reach the age of ‘decrepit’ I realized that I do not look forward to those potential days. I appreciate the thought behind it however.

So when analyzing your skills and knowledge, don’t be too negative or hesitant. You’ll be amazed of the diversity of needs there is among the world’s populations. From cooking recipes, to cocktails, to tax advice, to explaining laws or government regulations, explaining home remedies, the needs are practically unlimited. Pick one that fits you best, stay up-to-date with knowledge and tailor-make the advise for those who cannot commit the time or resources, to stay ahead; package it in a neat easy to understand form and sell it on the internet.

I know a young man who is creative with a video camera. Commercials on his youTube channel generate a $15K income a month for him. I don’t think age has anything to do with that initiative.

Internet Opportunities

As we are now thoroughly in the Internet age, starting an Internet-based business or restructuring an existing business to be operable over the Internet, offers numerous opportunities in terms of diversified income plus international maneuverability into another jurisdiction should it become necessary to avoid many of the regulations of the home country.
This is a very real possibility for many. An Internet-based business does offer the potential to create an income that is either equal or similar to that which one would enjoy. In addition, in many cases, this is possible without having to change clientele or learn a new language. Therefore, the Internet-based business tends to minimize the level of financial fear for the future, that one would need to go through.

The Internet is not regulated by any country at present yet, which allows for tremendous freedom. But, here is where the bad news comes in. There can be no doubt that, at present, Internet-based business is a tremendous boon to those who are hoping to escape the clutches of their financial fears for the future. But those words, “at present,” are a reminder that many desperate governments are hot on the tail of Internet-based businesses, to make sure that they get their unearned piece of the pie.

Internet Regulations to Consider

As the unravelling of the internet is gaining speed, the countries that have been the major players in the development are increasing legislation and regulation. The leaders of this trend are the US and the EU, but there are others. Rest assured that, the greater the trend toward financial independence through Internet-based incomes, the greater the push will become to regulate and tax Internet-based incomes.
The US has already begun with the introduction of The Marketplace Fairness Act, that has passed the Senate and is on its way to the House of Representatives. Any legislation containing the word “fairness” virtually guarantees to be the opposite, is the experience of a long life of fighting against the dictatorship called “majority rules”. The purpose of the Marketplace Fairness Act is to apply sales tax to any online transactions, much in the same way as we now pay sales tax over an item purchased in a Second Hand Store, where the sales benefits a charity. Should this Act be passed (as it is likely to, either in this go-round or in a future form), there would be three principle negative effects that an Internet-based business would experience.

First, whatever savings the business might have been offering to consumers as a freedom from sales tax, would be eliminated. Second, whatever benefit the business owner sought to enjoy through the avoidance of sales tax would be eliminated. Third (and most debilitating), the Internet company would be buried in paperwork and tax-filings.

There are legal ways to avoid any of this, which is what I’ll explain in next week’s business essay. Until then, think about what you would like to share with the world that somebody out there would be willing to pay a small amount for. I guarantee you will not outlive your money and what’s more you will stay active and interested and that’s truly happiness, or at least joy.

PS I’m working on an E-Book titled “Is Having a B&B on your Bucket List?”. Stay tuned.

Interesting Tax Tip

Interesting Tax TipWell, it looks like the IRS will get you coming and going. My cousin just informed me of a service fee she almost paid in addition to the taxes she owed the Internal Revenue Service this year.

She and her husband file their taxes via e-file, as do many other people. This is the third year they have owed taxes at the end of the year, but this year it was different.

When she went to pay the tax bill with her DEBIT card, it read that if you pay by CREDIT or DEBIT you will be charged a percentage of what you owe, in addition to the tax debt.

This could have cost my cousin nearly $100.00 in an extra service charge from the IRS.

The remedy? Simply mail them a check.

Good luck and don’t forget to file your taxes by April 15, 2014.

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Property Appraiser’s Office Fair in 2013 Assessments

Property Appraiser's Office Fair in 2013 AssessmentsNassau County, FL – The Value Adjustment Board (VAB) recently wrapped up their hearings and has determined that the Property Appraiser’s Office was fair in their 2013 assessments.

Approximately 145 petitions were filed with the Value Adjustment Board in 2013, a stark contrast to the 425 petitions filed the year before Mike Hickox’s term. “Majority of the petitions were resolved prior to going to VAB,” said Hickox. “Only 16 petitions actually went before the Special Magistrate without spending any additional money on attorney fees.” For the 2013 VAB hearings, the Property Appraiser’s Office didn’t spend any money on legal fees or outside appraisal or consulting services.

If property owners do not agree with their classification, exemption, or property value, they have the right to file a petition with the Value Adjustment Board within 25 days from the time the notice of proposed property taxes were mailed. The next step is the exchanging of evidence and hearings with the Special Magistrate, who then makes a recommendation to the Nassau County Value Adjustment Board. “Anytime during the year, we ask that property owners call our office with questions so that we may review their value with them,” added Hickox.

Of the 16 petitions that were brought to a hearing, only one was granted. Chief Deputy Kevin Lilly explained that there was an organization that incorrectly applied for an educational exemption. “Fernandina Little Theater applied for an exemption we felt they didn’t qualify for,” said Lilly. “We worked with them on filing for a charitable exemption instead, which was granted by the VAB.”

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The Age of Improv Monetary Experimentation

And absolutely nothing will change preventing the dollar's deterioration

The torch has passed and Janet Yellen has taken off where Ben Bernanke left off. She calls herself a sensible central banker, but reserves the right to ignore sensibility, transparency rules and economic formulas in favor of improvisational monetary experimentation.

As a consequence of her debut appearance on Capitol Hill earlier this week, Congress voted to raise the debt ceiling…until next year…without quibbles or conditions.

And frankly why would they quibble or protest. They have little to no knowledge of economic or monetary policy and have only experienced since 2008, that slow deleveraging of a huge bubble can be manipulated without chaos and blood in the streets.

In order to do that Washington and Wall Street had to circle the wagons and create an insider vacuum that exorcised transparency, equality and accountability. The financial system almost collapsed but none of the perpetrators was ever sent to do time in federal penitentiary. Au contraire, they were allowed to pay themselves huge bonuses for circling the wagons and kicking morality to the curb.

As the Fed fuels “excess funding” of America’s credit needs… this excess funding drives the stock market beyond any real market value.

The Fed source of funding is like manna from heaven to the 1%. No calloused hands earned it. No drop of sweat stains it. No furrowed brow figured out how to make it. Just turn on the printing presses.

Five years ago, we were certain the Fed could not expand its balance sheet to $4 trillion without grave and ghastly consequences. But month after month goes by with no such consequences showing up on the horizon as we are searching for a sign that show at least the top of their masts. So what are we to think?

The global financial crisis introduced an politician’s nightmare as it required deleveraging by paying down, defaulting on, writing down and writing off debts. This would be long and hard, we reckoned. And when that task was done, we would run into a period of inflation, maybe even hyperinflation depending on how monetary policy would be executed.

Responsible scenario: with deleveraging completed, people will begin to borrow and spend again. The Feds would facilitate this by increasing the money supply – possibly virulently, with ultra-low interest rates – and drive up consumer prices.
Irresponsible scenario: desperate and impatient to revive the go-go days before the crisis began, the Fed might resort to direct monetary stimulus (Helicopter Ben anyone?).

The US, and many Federal Bankers around the world, decided to keep on partying like it’s 1999 and simply change the formulas to reflect growth and give the appearance that we’re on a slow turn to financial normalcy, rather than living high on the hog as if ‘apres nous le deluge’ was monopolized by the French revolution, never to be repeated again.

Janet Yellen stated clearly on Capitol Hill that she would continue making policy up as she goes along, centering her efforts around the official unemployment numbers. Never mind that the Bureau of Labor Statistics in its current 6.7% unemployment estimate has eliminated almost 17% of the American workforce.

The key to understanding unemployment rates is the Labor Force Participation Rate—meaning the percentage of the population that’s officially employed. When the BLS calculates the unemployment rate, it doesn’t consider a person whose unemployment benefits have run out and is no longer looking for a job to be unemployed. With no jobs available many workers go into the black market as handymen, seasonal workers off the books etc. etc.

Current policy means if everyone quit looking for a job, the unemployment rate would be zero? The large drop in the number of unemployed mostly reflects people that have becoming ‘discouraged’ and are being statistically removed from the headline labor force, instead of finding jobs and returning to work.

Previously 6.5% unemployment was the Fed’s benchmark for raising interest rates and tapering off financial stimulus. That position is now retracted and Quantitative Easing can go on and will probably become a major Fed instrument from here on, to avoid a necessary currency collapse in the threat of social chaos.

And since we’re all still more or less and alive and struggling forward since the 2008 almost collapse there is something to be said for this approach. BUT ONLY if cautious action is taken to repair the economy and avoid uncontrolled excess for the future. But in the words of John Popper, we should all be aware: “There is a price to pay”, when the Feds announce that the age of Improv monetary experimentation has arrived.

Kohl’s Cares Scholarship Program 2014

Kohl's Cares Scholarship Program 2014Do you know a young volunteer aged 6 to 18 who deserves the opportunity to win the Kohl’s Cares Scholarship for 2014? SearchAmelia’s own, Ally at the Desk was the “Store Winner” last year! The The 2014 Kohl’s Cares® Scholarship Program nomination form is now available and to see a student who is truly committed to community be rewarded with a little perk, well, it’s worth it!

Top winners receive $10,000 each. Nominations are open now through March 14; nominators must be 21 or older.

Nominees must have not graduated high school and immediate family members or Kohl’s employees are not eligible.

Store winners will each receive a $50.00 Kohl’s gift card. Regional winners will be awarded a $1,000 scholarship towards higher education and National winners will each recieve a total of $10,000.00 in scholarships.

To nominate a young volunteer, go to and follow the online instructions. Please note, no extensions will be granted.

Details regarding the Kohl’s Cares Scholarship Program can be found in the Official Rules and Frequently Asked Questions.

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65 Is Merely a Political Number

Retiring on a sailboat in the Caribbean

Retirement Choices Depend on Finances, Health and Interests

I tried retiring on several occasions over the past 25 years or so, never convinced that the government “dictated” 65 was the right age. Growing up in Europe, 65 was the “official” retirement age, until governments starting screwing around with our retirement savings they took out of our salaries and supposedly kept in custody for us. When it turned out over the years that their hands in the till had been to frequently self-help, they composed clever schemes for retirement options. Retire early and get less money but more time; retire later and get more money. But than inflation started eating away the benefits and confusion set in.

I learned early on that retirement for me really is not all it’s cracked up to be, but I guess the answer really depends on where you find yourself financially, emotionally and health-wise come age 65 or thereabout.

In our young years, the system incentivized us to trade time for money and smartly stash away enough of it to later reverse the process and trade money for time. In my late thirties I had enough CDs Certificates of Deposits) at 8-10% interest annually, to cautiously take a stab at retiring for a while. I didn’t think it was smart to wait until 65 and then from one day to the next, find myself useless to the world. I didn’t buy the notion that ideally, we’d each have a few decades of independence before the grim reaper—or assisted living facility—comes knocking. So I pulled myself out of the system. I could have maintained the financial part of that lifestyle for many years, if the Feds hadn’t pulled the annual interest earnings from under me and millions of others by rendering fiat money useless. Besides, I found that emotionally and health-wise I was not ready to retire. I kind of semi-retired on one other occasion in 2001, to find out that emotionally and mentally I probably would never reach retirement age.

Now that I’ve just entered the age of 63 I’m studying the statistics published on the Social Security website (I know, not the best place for reliable information) and note that: “A rich man reaching age 65 today can expect to live, on average, until age 82. A woman turning age 65 today can expect to live, on average, until age 84.” A more in-depth study by the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington released in July 2013 broke down life expectancy for men and women in different parts of the U.S. showing a strong – not totally unexpected – correlation between income levels and longevity. The report found that life expectancy is 81.6 for males and 84.5 for females in Fairfax County, Virginia (a very affluent area) and 81.4 for males and 85.0 for females in Marin County, California (another upscale area) compared to only 63.9 for males and 72.9 for females in McDowell County, West Virginia or 66.7 for males and 73.3 for females in Tunica County, Mississippi.

Do you see why I call 65 a political number?

You’d like to retire at age 65? What’s so magic about age 65 anyway? Nothing! It was the retirement age the government used when setting up Social Security in 1934. To a small degree influenced by Germany’s existing system which stood as example for most of Europe, but mostly defined by actuarial science that concluded in those days, the age of 65 to be pretty much the median for federal affordability.

Since then Social Security’s full retirement age has moved to 68 to compensate for increasing life expectancies and should Washington ever get serious about fixing Social Security, the age is likely to be pushed up even further.

Keeping age in perspective is not always easy, even though age is only one barometer for the retirement decision; there are other factors much more important for deciding if and when to retire. Poor health may make the decision for you. But if you’re healthy – mentally and physically, the most important factor is whether you have enough doubloons stashed away to support yourself and your spouse for the rest of your lives. When you run the numbers—there are countless financial calculators available for doing just that—be optimistic and assume you’ll live long past age 84 or 86.

If you do have enough to make it and you enjoy your job,  you may consider working a few extra years and put icing on the cake, because if you’re lucky enough to be healthy and vital at age 90, finding yourself wishing for a bout of dengue fever or pneumonia, or staring at the wrong end of a gun because you’ve run out of money, is not the way to go.

And once you’ve jumped over the financial hurdle, it doesn’t mean you have to or even ought to retire. If you love your job, are having fun, and see nothing else you’d rather do, keep on enjoying it. It’ll keep you alive, because boredom is the biggest enemy of retirees. Love the challenges of this new world and it will keep you going.

My advice in recent years to a lot of my fellow baby boomers is to learn and embrace the new digital world. Start writing down your specific experiences, have someone edit your life into a cohesive read and publish e-books and stories that inform and help. Learn how to build a website or be a social media expert for those who don’t have the time. The new world needs a more controlled transition whether it concerns finances, hobbies, fundraisers, festival organizations, social support group, translations etc. and that world desperately needs value and experience.

Ask yourself these questions:

• Is there anything else I would rather be doing?
• Do I enjoy the environment I’m working in?
• Am I accomplishing something other than just earning a paycheck?
• Do I enjoy the people I work with, or am I just putting up with them?
• Do I feel I am missing something?
• Is my spouse on board, or does he/she feel my working is prohibiting us from doing too many other things?
• Do I have other hobbies I enjoy that I could turn into a part-time business I would enjoy?
• Do we currently live where we want to live?
• Am I just tired of the rat race and want a change?

I have been asked a lot: “When are you ready to retire?” I can only honestly answer: “I don’t know.”

What I do know however is that a happy retirement means you have enough to money to quit working and live the lifestyle you want—and for many of us that does not mean microwave dinners in front of the television.

If you are like so many these days who made the mistake of not saving, than you will discover that you cannot live very well on Social Security alone. This often means back to work at low-paying jobs, and your time choices are subordinated to your work schedules. That’s far from the dream of enjoying your golden years.

Here is a Helpful Hint

Ask yourself what kind of lifestyle do you want? It may take some compromises to mesh your dream with reality. I had a guest at our B&B a couple of months ago, who owns a 55-plus gated communities here in Florida who told me that his park of doublewide mobile homes was always completely rented out.The park had a clubhouse, golf course, a community pool with sunset deck – most anything a retiree would want. Most of his tenants were people with successful careers who had decided to downsize economically so they had money for trips, cruises, time for family, friends and most of all, no money stresses. They are truly enjoying their golden years having fun and don’t feel like they’re missing a thing. They’re social weekly agendas are as long as my arm.

Family obviously plays a key role in retirement decisions. Being part of your grandchildren’s lives often means spending most major holidays in your children’s homes, watching the next generation build their family traditions. And proximity to family has a wide range of implications. As we age, some children feel it’s easier to keep an eye on us if we live nearby. Others want grandparents far enough away to ensure they stay independent as long as they possibly can.

We know plenty of people who pick up the grandchildren from school every day and are taking a major role in raising the next generation. We want no part of that; raising children is their parents’ job. We prefer to be grandparents and not recycled parents. But whatever floats your boat and works for your family is the way to go because age and retirement changes your mindset.

Once you’ve experienced the exhilaration of true freedom and independence from a full-time job—doing what you want, when you want—you never want to go back. Never again do you want to financially depend on anyone.

Retiring on your own terms is the only advisable way to go? It’s being financially able to approach a state of mind where your time is your own. You and your spouse can do the fun things you want to, whether that’s planning a long trip or making spur-of-the-moment decisions because you feel like it.

We all have friends that seem to go on cruises 6 times a year, but they exercise the luxury of waiting for the deals on ships that depart in less than a month. As you get older a long-term plan is a couple of weeks away and understanding that 65 is merely a man-made number that plays political roulette with your life. The peace of mind that you can “keep on keeping on” as long as your health allows is what enjoying your golden years truly means.

Good luck and may you be guided by wisdom.

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